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Summer at Center for Inquiry–International

by Ben Hyink

The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 19, Number 3.

This summer I had the good fortune of attending both the Center for Inquiry’s 2003 Institute Summer Session and the Debater’s Toolbox through a CFI internship. The Summer Session brought together scholars of all ages and backgrounds for an intensive six-credit-hour, two-week session  in which we learned about ethical views and belief development, exchanged perspectives with one another and prestigious professors in the fields of philosophy and psychology, traveled to local sites of interest, and developed great friendships along the way. I found especially interesting Peter Railton’s consequentialism of “objectified well-being” as advocated by Austin Dacey and Robert Solomon (University of Texas) and his nuanced interpretation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s virtue ethics. Professor Barry Beyerstein, from Simon Frasier University, taught a class that was thoroughly informative and Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom gave  presentations that were both informative and wildly entertaining.

The Debater’s Toolbox event, held from Thursday, July 31 to Sunday, August 3, was  packed with strategies and models that participants could use in their own formal and informal debates. The main presenters offered solid strategies to winning debates that varied in emphasis as to which components of a victory were of greatest importance (winning the technical arguments, relating to the audience, remaining civil, etc.). We secular humanists and skeptics have minds of our own—go figure.

The afternoon sessions were fascinating; tapes of this event are well worth purchasing. At the request of Paul Kurtz, actress and comedian Julia Sweeney indulged a dinner audience in an impromptu performance of her monologue “My Beautiful Loss-of-Faith Story”—a hilarious and uplifting work that should not be missed. The Saturday night main event featured a debate between Eddie Tabash and Michael Vander Meer focusing on the existence of God.  In my opinion, Vander Meer was trounced. Tabash later made the point that, although bruises may be expected from challengers the caliber of William L. Craig, one must always use one’s array of arguments to the fullest advantage in any debate.

CFI develops and utilizes the strongest abilities of each intern: together, we have written press releases, analyzed paranormal evidence and performed experiments for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, conducted interviews on behalf of Free Inquiry, in addition to providing support at various events, administering seemingly countless mailings, maintaining various databases (data entry), and many other tasks. I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to work with and learn from CFI’s community of scholars and activists, especially those at the Council for Secular Humanism. I highly recommend the CFI summer internship program to all students in the secular humanist and skeptic communities. 

Ben Hyink is a student and active in the Third Culture Society at Northwestern University.

Pg 1 photo caption

Session 1 of the Debaters’ Tool Box was on the “Philosophical Foundations of the Debate on Theism.” The panel included (from left to right): Keith Parsons (at podium); Charles Echelbarger (seated); Eddie Tabash (with microphone); Graham Oppy; and Evan Fales (partially hidden).


Page 2 photo (top) caption



Page 2 photo (bottom) caption


Session 1 of the Debaters’ Tool Box was on the “Philosophical Foundations of the Debate on Theism.” The panel included (from left to right): Keith Parsons (at podium); Charles Echelbarger (seated); Eddie Tabash (with microphone); Graham Oppy; and Evan Fales (partially hidden).

Jeff Lowder (left) asumes the Christian viewpoint against Stuart Jordan (seated, right) in a mock debate in the CFI library during Debaters’ Toolbox.

Students, faculty and staff of CFI’s Summer Session 2003. CFI’s college-credit courses included “Reason and Ethics” and “Psychology of Belief.”

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This page was last updated 12/12/2003

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